Second Regional Conference in Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development

First of all I should like to thank you, Mr. President, for your presence with us here in the United Nations. We know how closely you and your government are identified with the purposes and principles inspiring the work of our Commission and of the United Nations in general, to which you yourself devoted several years of your professional life. We therefore wish to celebrate with particular attention this first visit of yours to ECLAC as President of all the citizens of Chile, which serves to further underline the long tradition of collaboration with our organization which has been so strongly reasserted in this new phase of Chilean democracy. In this respect, I also wish to celebrate the presence of ex-President Patricio Aylwin, who not only had the honour of initiating this new phase in the democratic life of Chile but was also responsible for coordinating the joint regional report prepared by IDB, ECLAC and UNDP for the 1995 World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen. Consequently, Mr. President, your opinions at this Second Regional Follow-up Conference prior to the special session of the United Nations General Assembly in follow-up to the World Summit, to be held in Geneva in June, will be particularly welcome. Finally, I should also like to thank all the Ministers, Ambassadors, government representatives, special guests, and all our colleagues from other international organizations for being with us today.

For the world as a whole, the decade which has just drawn to a close has been outstanding but also paradoxical. The force of human creativeness has shown itself once again in the technological revolution we are experiencing: in the changes in informatics, telecommunications and biotechnology, whose profound implications for our societies are only beginning to reveal themselves to us. This process, together with the economic liberalization decisions adopted by an ever-increasing number of countries, has been hastening world economic interdependence. Globalization has made itself evident in the dynamic, albeit unstable, development of financial markets, in the ongoing restructuring of the great transnational corporations in order to compete in the new global context, in the rapid growth of world trade, and in the creation of the World Trade Organization, which has established new rules not only for trade in goods but also for that in services and intellectual property.

These creative forces, however, have been running up against the problem of the world's great difficulty in placing them at the service of peace and development for all. The end of the Cold War has certainly not meant the end of arms races, war or genocide, whose manifestations continue to shock the world. The economic and social development of the world gives us constant proofs of our inability to make technological development and the market forces work for the benefit of all. Indeed, as an increasingly extensive set of studies shows, the last quarter of the twentieth century was a period of possibly unprecedented widening of economic inequality all over the world. This is reflected in the inequalities both between countries and within them. Thus, income distribution has deteriorated in a broad range of industrialized and developing countries which account for 57% of the world's population; it has improved for only 16% of the population and remained unchanged for the rest. This growing inequality is perhaps the best proof that the market alone does not guarantee that the benefits of its dynamic development will be enjoyed by all, and that this can only be achieved through collective action to that end.

The Copenhagen World Social Development Summit was one of the best examples of this awareness by mankind that equity can only be attained if it is pursued as a collective aim. The Copenhagen meeting forms part of a series of world summits organized by the United Nations which have given rise to a process that has been termed the "globalization of values": that is to say, the worldwide extension of the principles of human rights protection, social development, sex equality, respect for ethnic and cultural diversity, and protection of the environment. There is a marked contrast between the declaration of these principles and concrete actions to implement them, however. There are no major redistributive instruments at the world level, and those that have been developed at the national level display not only their own insufficiency but also the growing difficulties faced by States in reconciling international competitiveness with active social policies.

The weakening of national States, without the concomitant emergence of world institutions to guarantee the collective aims agreed upon at the United Nations world summits, is undoubtedly one of the main reasons for the contrast between economic and social results at the world level. The growing demands for world-level collective action are in stark contrast with the obvious weakness of the institutions developed to ensure world governance and, indeed, with the weakening of multilateralism.

For these reasons, the aims behind the organization of the World Social Summit are just as valid today as yesterday. They concern the need to ensure that the fruits of economic development are shared among all and the measures that should be taken to deal with the risks and tensions generated by globalization for broad social groups, especially those ill-prepared to compete in a global world, as well as the stresses caused by the need for greater flexibility to cope with an unstable international economy and the technological changes and sharp readjustments in comparative advantages marking the world of today. It is a question, if you will, of collectively shouldering certain "negative" risks, such as those connected with unemployment, income instability, sickness and old age, so that the economic agents can more readily assume the "positive" risks involved in technological change and the opportunities presented by global markets.

ECLAC has been making a strong intellectual effort to help to define the way in which the governments of the region can face up to the challenges of the global world. It has done so within the conception of development as an integral process that the Commission has been constructing throughout its more than fifty years of existence. "Equity, development and citizenship", the keynote document submitted for the consideration of governments at our session in Mexico City last April, contains a full and updated formulation of that conception. The document now before governments, "The equity gap: a second appraisal", reviews the degree of fulfillment of the goals of the Summit and offers some additional elements.

The appraisals made by ECLAC indicate that the decade which has just ended displays undoubted advances in economic terms, especially as regards the correction of the acute macroeconomic imbalances typical of past decades and the achievement of more dynamic international trade and foreign investment linkages. The achievements in terms of economic growth and productivity have been frustrating, however: for the region as a whole, the growth rate for the decade was only 3.3% per year, compared with the 5.5% annual growth rate attained in the three decades before the debt crisis. Equally important, the instability of economic growth and the frequency of financial crises indicate that not all the sources of instability have been corrected, and in some cases may even have got worse. Furthermore, the structural heterogeneity of the productive sectors has increased, giving rise to strong social tensions, including the growing prevalence of informal employment.

Progress has also been made in the social field. The clearest indication of this is the increase in public social expenditure from an average of 10.1% of GDP at the beginning of the decade to 12.4% in recent years: the highest level ever. This progress has been accompanied by major efforts to restructure social services, with as yet mixed results. These efforts show the region's commitment to the goals of the World Social Summit, but they have been disparate and are still insufficient. It has not always been possible to channel these resources effectively and efficiently towards the sectors and activities with the greatest redistributive potential, the greatest impact on the well-being of the poorest sectors, and the greatest promise for the future.

As regards the three key subjects of the Social Summit ? poverty, employment and social integration ? the results have been mixed. The proportion of poor households went down from 41% in 1990 to 36% in 1997, but the number of poor persons did not go down in absolute terms and continues to stand at some 200 million. Furthermore, during the recent crisis this process of improvement was brought to a halt, so that the absolute number of poor people increased by some 20 million, standing at 224 million in 1999.

Generally speaking, employment has performed sluggishly in the region and is undoubtedly the Achilles' heel of the economic reforms. This situation is to be observed in the majority of the countries, in the form of an increase in open unemployment and/or a deterioration in the quality of the jobs available. According to ECLAC estimates, seven out of every ten new jobs generated are in informal occupations. The increase in the wage gap between employees with university education and the rest of the workforce, which has been observed throughout the region, has added additional tensions within the context of an adverse long-term income distribution trend in many countries.

The advances in terms of social integration are also mixed. On the positive side, there has undoubtedly been progress as regards the stability of democracy and the expansion of mechanisms for citizen participation, as well as wider recognition of women's rights and the importance of the role of systems of justice. However, there are also less encouraging results which continue to reveal serious problems of integration, especially the persistence of areas of hard-core poverty, cases of ethnic discrimination, housing segregation and an increase in various forms of violence.

Overcoming the shocking levels of inequality which make this the most unequal region in the world is an ethical, political and economic imperative. In this respect, the first aim must be to do away with the widespread, unsustainable and intolerable state of poverty in which almost 40% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean still lives. Achieving this aim requires public resources, private cooperation, domestic and foreign financial support, technical quality but, above all, broad national and regional commitments. Indeed, our social and political organizations will not be able to overcome their fragility or consider themselves mature until they have built up their own capacity to give all citizens the possibility of enjoying a decent form of life, demanding their rights and fulfilling their duties, and building their own lives while at the same time pursuing collective objectives. This lies at the heart of the efforts to construct social citizenship to which we committed ourselves at the Summit Meeting.

Achieving this objective calls for active, integral social policies founded on the basic principles of universality, solidarity and efficiency. The essential aim is to break the channels through which poverty and inequality are reproduced from generation to generation: especially the channels of education and employment. Consequently, for ECLAC education and employment are the two main pillars or "master keys" of development with equity.

Education is the main means for overcoming the enormous social and economic gaps that exist and furthering the exercise of modern democratic citizenship. Our studies indicate that 11 or 12 years of schooling ?that is to say, full secondary education- are needed in order to have a good chance of not suffering poverty. This should therefore be the objective of universal coverage towards which the efforts of our countries should be directed. The greater demands of today's world in terms of technology and competitiveness make this even more imperative, as also the need to reverse the process of deterioration of the quality of our educational systems (especially the public ones) and to adapt their content to develop the skills needed by a changing, media-based and democratic world.

The challenge of generating sufficient good-quality jobs is another key concern for the countries of the region, which is why there must be a commitment to stability and economic growth. Furthermore, in view of the large proportion of persons working in small production units, countries must provide broad support for micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises, promoting a process of true democratization of access to the basic factors of production such as credit, technology, land, management skills, the integration of such enterprises into broader chains of production (especially those linked with the more dynamic sectors), and full access by the workers in those enterprises and by self-employed persons to social security benefits.

In the labour market, technological requirements and the constant changes in them, together with business dynamics, call for greater mobility and adaptability on the part of workers. We must therefore seek to advance towards social protection mechanisms which, rather than protecting particular jobs, protect workers' incomes and their access to the social security systems. The development of social security systems which are independent of a worker's occupational status or type of employment is therefore a basic condition for ensuring both competitiveness and social protection. We must advance at the same time towards the development of permanent social safety nets for coping with economic crises and natural disasters, so that poor households can quickly avert basic shortcomings in terms of food, health, income and housing.

Finally, the social integration challenge calls for the destruction of the barriers raised by social exclusion and stratification mechanisms, which create exclusive circuits of access to resources, contacts, information and knowledge, as well as a variety of socio-cultural filters. Overcoming these calls for a wide range of actions, including the development of social policies specially targeted at the most vulnerable sectors, the incorporation of previously excluded actors in mechanisms of political representation, full access to justice, and, above all, the consolidation of a citizen culture based on identification with collective objectives, tolerance for different attitudes, and the negotiated solution of conflicts.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates:

Our region as a whole faces the dual challenge of securing its dynamic integration into the global world while at the same time overcoming the age-old gap in terms of equity and exclusion which it has inherited from the past but which continues to be reproduced in old and new ways. This meeting, like that to be held in Geneva next month, must serve to reiterate the aims we adopted five years ago at Copenhagen. Mankind's enormous creativeness, and the ability to overcome difficulties which we have displayed throughout our history, must be used to achieve forms of international and national development which will allow the opportunities held out by technology and global markets to help us to advance together, not reproduce or create new sources of exclusion: in short, the market must serve society, and not the other way round.